Environment Secretary Paterson backs GM crops

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Fear and suspicion about genetically modified food amongst the public is "complete nonsense" and the result of "humbugs" with misplaced preconceptions, the Environment Secretary has claimed.

Owen Paterson argued that the Prime Minister should give his personal backing to "persuade the public" of the "real environmental benefits" behind GM crops, which he believes should be more widely farmed and sold.

"Emphatically we should be looking at GM," said Mr Paterson, who as head of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking into loosening regulation of the sector following a public consultation. "I'm very clear it would be a good thing," he told the Daily Telegraph. "The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you've got to do is sell the real environmental benefits."

The controversial biotechnology has been criticised for the possibility that without proper controls it could release scientifically altered genes into the wider environment through cross-pollination.

But supporters say that it can improve crop yields by making the plants resistant to herbicides intended to kill weeds, as well as reducing the need for pesticides and helping to increase immunity against viruses.

"There's about 160 million hectares of GM being grown around the world," Mr Paterson added, saying the public are already eating GM crops without any problems despite little awareness. "There isn't a single piece of meat being served [in a typical London restaurant] where a bullock hasn't eaten some GM feed. So it's a complete nonsense. But, the humbug! You know, large amounts of GM products are used across Europe."

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